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Roland Garros

Raphael Nadal beats Sinner to reach 13th French Open semifinal in Midnight showdown

Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates after winning his quarter final match against Italy's Jannik Sinner.
Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates after winning his quarter final match against Italy's Jannik Sinner. REUTERS - GONZALO FUENTES
Text by: David Coffey with RFI
3 min

The 12-time Roland Garros champion Nadal withstood an early challenge from 19-year-old Jannik Sinner and pulled away to win their quarterfinal 7-6 (4), 6-4, 6-1 in a match that ended at nearly 1:30 a.m. this Wednesday morning. The Spaniard can now add “latest-finishing match” and “13 semifinals reached” to his considerable roster of French Open records. 

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The Roland Garros competition can continue that deep into the night in Paris this year because it’s the first time artificial lights are being used for play at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament.

“It’s too late," Nadal said in French to tennis fans who remained in the stands, before switching to English to say, “But thank you very much for staying until that late under these very tough conditions out here tonight.”

Two days rest before Schwartzman clash

The quarterfinal began after 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday night and was the last match of the day on a packed schedule at Court Philippe Chatrier, which went on longer than anticipated thanks to No. 12 seed Diego Schwartzman’s five-hour, five-set victory over No. 3 Dominic Thiem.

No. 2 Nadal will now take a 9-1 head-to-head edge against Schwartzman into their meeting in Friday’s semifinals.

“Two days to practice, to rest a little bit and to recover, and just try to be ready,” Nadal said.

Schwartzman has this going for him: He won their most recent matchup, beating Nadal last month on clay at a tuneup in Rome.

“I’m not sure if I’m going to have a lot of confidence,” Schwartzman said, “but, yeah, I know ... that I can beat him. That’s important.” 

The veteran champion praises Sinner's achievement

Nadal is aiming to win a 13th French Open title and 20th Grand Slam trophy overall, which would equal Swiss rival Roger Federer’s mark for men.

For the 75th-ranked Sinner, this was his first Grand Slam quarterfinal.

Consider this: Nadal turned pro in 2001, the year Sinner was born. Nadal made his French Open debut in 2005, turned 19 during the tournament, beat Federer in the semifinals and won the trophy.

No one since then had made it to the men’s quarterfinals at Roland Garros during his first appearance until Sinner this year. 

According to Nadal, “Sinner is a very, very young talent with a lot of power. Great shots. For two sets, (it was) tough. He was hitting every ball very hard. And for me, it was difficult. The ball ... with this cold, the spin is not there. So for me, it was difficult to pull him out of position.”

(with wires)

   

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